Many North Koreans will be pulling for South Korea’s World Cup success since the tournament is one of the few sports events from outside North Korea that is approved for broadcast on the secluded nation’s government-controlled television stations.
Soccer is among the top three sports in North Korea — the other two being table tennis and volleyball — and millions of North Koreans will be watching the games on TV, according to Reuters.
One defector from the oppressive north told Reuters that soccer is “cherished” and is a “sport that boosts solidarity and collectivity, which are crucial elements in North Korean society.”
Even if there are political tensions, defectors say that North Korean citizens have always supported their South Korean fellows for the World Cup. “We would, of course, be rooting for the South, even when inter-Korean relations are frosty,” defector Hong Kang-cheol exclaimed.
The North Korean team failed to qualify for the tournament, but the South qualified for its ninth consecutive appearance at the games. The South Korean team lost 1-0 to Sweden during Monday’s game and is next scheduled to meet Mexico on June 23. But to date, success seems to be eluding the south. Out of six games so far, the South Koreans have won one, tied one and lost the rest.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.